One of the dominant themes of the New Testament is the believer’s experience of becoming increasingly like Jesus in real life. This is referred to as holiness or sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8), maturity (Colossians 1:27-29), and being transformed (Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 3:16-18), conformed (Romans 8:29), and imitators (1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1). It could be summarized by Jesus’ definition of what it means to make disciples: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
Somehow these categories have been confused with having biblical knowledge. Our Evangelical subculture places a high premium of theological understanding and the ability to quote a string of Bible verses. Whatever cultural and historical factors have created this standard, it is far from biblical. Knowing is only step one in becoming who God wants us to be. “If you know these things,” Jesus said, “blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17). And the “doing” Jesus calls us to can be captured in one word: love. Love was the “new commandment” our Lord gave his disciples the night before he modeled that love by sacrificing himself for them (John 13:34-35). When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we fulfill the whole of God’s commands (Galatians 5:14). Love is what identifies us as those who follow Jesus (John 13:35), so much so that if we do not love–not only in word but in deed and in truth–we must question whether or not we have spiritual life at all (1 John 3:14-18). Thus Paul could summarize the life of the Christian as “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
These dynamics underlie the new sermon series we will begin after we wrap up our time in Genesis 1-11 this Sunday. The series will be titled “Grow Up! How the gospel teaches us to love.” If the title strikes you as finger-pointing, believe me that there are three pointing at your pastor. We will be walking through texts that have, for the past year, been my go-to texts when I find myself fighting sin, struggling to love, and needing God’s power to make me more like Jesus. These include 2 Peter 1:1-15, Titus 2:11-14, and Galatians 5-6. Rather than cherry-picking a few insights out of each text, we will take time to soak in the context of each passage and learn how to grow in spiritual maturity.
I look forward to spending a few months focusing on becoming more like Jesus and pray that your heart, like mine, will be challenged by God’s word and transformed by God’s love to love one another.